A First-hand account of clerical abuse
The UK is a mostly secular population, yet most of us born in these islands were taught his ideas, by law. St Augustine’s fourth century hair-shirt texts shape our society—our politics, our schools and how we relate to ourselves and each other.
In school we learn Augustine’s values, challenging enlightened notions of decency and fair play. We are taught to say sorry for our wrongful actions and to cravenly beg for mercy. In response we expect to be forgiven behind the back of the wronged victim. According to polls, most of us reject religion later in life, but billions of neural connections made in our infant brains are not simply freed.
Following Augustine’s doctrine on penance, Church Eucharist services admit sin and beg forgiveness or mercy twenty-four times. Grace and love are said twice. In faith schools today, infants are taught to recite similar prayers, often by a cleric. Teachers do not set out to sexualise pupils, but an authority figure causing a child to feel guilt and shame is a known child sexual grooming technique.
The UK Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse reports 100 new abuse cases by clerics each year, yet nothing in literature explains this deviance credibly. Augustine claimed that humans are naturally wicked and we are predisposed to be sinfully lustful from birth. In these pages we see how he was mistaken. The possible influence that his ideas might have on the sexual abuse of altar boys and the callous neglect found in Ireland’s mother and baby homes, is studiously explored.
Multiple research papers endorsing religiosity are reviewed here, highlighting a lack of rigour. And we discover why academics tend to shun this field of study. The author suggests Augustine’s teaching might play a more influential role in child sexual abuse and adult mental well-being than has generally been recognised in mainstream social science.
This thought-provoking book fills a gap in the shelf, opening a compelling new front in the current wave of popular religious critiques and revitalising the ‘God Debate’. The lucid descriptions of faith school drill and doctrine will stir readers who suppose Christianity is a benign influence, to think again.
David Warden –
David Warden – October 6, 2021
Michael Moloney has written a heartfelt memoir about his experience growing up in a religious school. The abuse he suffered as a child, partly physical punishment but mainly psychological, left a lasting imprint on him throughout his adult life. The church instilled an indelible belief that if things went wrong it was always his fault. He traces harmful religious attitudes back to the 5th century Bishop of Hippo, Saint Augustine, who believed that infants were stained by original sin and full of lust. Perhaps this repellent and highly sexualised view of babies and children has something to do with the clerical child abuse still being uncovered today. Moloney believes that the continuing prevalence of faith schools is harmful and his book is introduced with a foreword by Alastair Lichten, Education Officer of the National Secular Society. A couple of critical points: It would have been helpful to have a clearer chronology of events in Moloney’s life, including his subsequent career. Also, he appears to assume that his own experience dating from decades ago is being repeated today across thousands of faith schools. Of course, it’s difficult to know without proper academic research, and such research is difficult to undertake, but it seems unlikely that no enlightened progress has been made in religious schools over so many intervening decades. “Why Punish Me?” is one man’s story of how religious schooling negatively affected him for life and it has value as a personal testimony. (This review is of an advanced review copy received from the author prior to publication.)